When Miami University senior Sarah Kerns opened her January natural gas bill, she was shocked.
The bill had increased by $80 from the previous month.
“It’s annoying because you can’t really control (the price of the bill),” Kerns said. “No matter what temperature your house is set at, it’s going to be ridiculously high.”
As a Miami student who lives off-campus in Oxford, Kerns is not alone in her distress.
Glenwood Energy, the natural gas provider to 4,200 homes in Oxford, raised its monthly gas cost recovery (GCR) rate from $11.76 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas in December 2008 to $12.48 in January 2009, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).
Matt Butler, PUCO spokesman, said Glenwood’s GCR is higher than most other Ohio natural gas distributors.
“Right now, Glenwood is on the high side,” Butler said. “Most of (the other companies) are in the $9 to $10 range.”
According to January 2009 PUCO data, the four largest gas utilities in Ohio all maintained GCR rates under $10. Columbia Gas and Duke Energy both had GCRs around $9 and Dominion East and Vectren Energy had GCRs of around $8.50.
Although more energy is used in the winter and many homes may increase their gas consumption, the weather has little affect of the GCR, according to Marty Berkowitz, spokesman for Ohio Consumer’s Counsel.
“The cost of gas is based on an estimate of what it is going to cost on the market,” Berkowitz said. “It’s not a matter of the cost being higher because of the weather as much as what it costs to purchase gas and what the company has in
storage at the time.”
Gas distributors cannot make a profit off the GCR.
Glenwood Energy’s Chief Operating Officer John Stenger said gas prices increased this quarter because of an oversight in cost estimates from a private vendor.
“Prices on the open market have actually gone down in the winter, which is different from in the past,” Stenger said. “Most of our gas has been purchased since last September and October for the winter time. We can’t really effect our price now as much as we could have if we bought on the open market.”
To avoid the high winter GCR, Glenwood bought more gas for its winter supply, according to Stenger.
But unlike in the past, open-market prices have decreased in the winter months and Stenger said Glenwood is reconciling for its over-estimations.
“In hindsight, this was probably one of the better times to buy gas on the open market,” Stenger said.
Some Miami off-campus students, such as Kerns, and Oxford residents who use Glenwood Energy remain frustrated because even without moving the thermostat up and down, their gas bills are still increasing.
Glenwood’s Office Manager Kristy Smith said there are many precautions that renters and homeowners can take to control their utility bills.
“Even though people don’t touch their thermostats, the thermos still has to consume quite a bit of energy to keep the temperature settled at what it’s at,” Smith said. “It’s important to turn the thermostat down a few degrees while you’re out during the day and to shrink-wrap or somehow insulate the draft around the windows and doors. That kind of stuff really helps keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside.”